Sunday, December 16, 2012

Easy Money: The $10 Million Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize

What's Spock doing with that tricorder?
The Economist knows:
The dream of the medical tricorder
Medical technology: The hand-held diagnostic devices seen on “Star Trek” are inspiring a host of medical add-ons for smartphones
WHEN aliens seize and torture Dr McCoy in “The Empath”, an episode of the science-fiction series “Star Trek”, Captain Kirk and Mr Spock rush to his aid. They are able to assess his condition in seconds with the help of a medical tricorder—a hand-held computer with a detachable sensor that is normally used by Dr McCoy himself to diagnose others. A quick scan with the tricorder indicates that he suffers from “severe heart damage; signs of congestion in both lungs; evidence of massive circulatory collapse”.

Along with teleportation, speech-driven computers and hand-held wireless communicators that flip open, the medical tricorder was one of many imaginary future technologies featured in “Star Trek”. Ever since, researchers have dreamed of developing a hand-held medical scanner that can take readings from a patient and then diagnose various conditions. Now, nearly five decades after “Star Trek” made its debut in 1966, the dream is finally edging closer to reality.

Among the organisations pushing for the development of a medical tricorder is the X Prize Foundation, an organisation that aims to spur innovation by offering cash prizes. Earlier this year it announced the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, financed by the Qualcomm Foundation, the charitable arm of Qualcomm, a maker of wireless communications technologies. It has put up $10m in prize money and another $10m to pay for the administration of the competition. So far more than 230 teams from over 30 countries have applied to enter the contest, the guidelines for which will be finalised this month. The goal is to create a mobile platform that will enable people to diagnose a set of 15 conditions, including diseases as varied as pneumonia, diabetes and sleep apnoea, without having to rely on a doctor or nurse. “Ultimately this is about democratising access to health care around the world,” says Peter Diamandis, the head of the X Prize Foundation....MORE

Here's the Tricorder X-Prize homepage. There is no such thing as easy money. Vulcans never bluff.*

*"The Doomsday Machine"
Stardate 4202.9